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The Appeal

65 EpisodesProduced by The AppealWebsite

The Appeal is a podcast, hosted by Adam Johnson, on criminal justice reform, abolition and everything in between. Each week we will feature fascinating interviews with those covering, working in, and most affected by the American criminal system; from lawyers to activists to reporters to the formerl… read more

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Episode 65: The Cruel Rise of 'Drug Induced Homicide' Prosecutions

February 27th, 2020


In 2014, then-23 year-old Morgan Godvin sold a small amount of heroin to her friend and fellow drug user Justin DeLong who subsequently overdosed and …

Episode 64: Documenting the Death Penalty

February 13th, 2020


Despite hundreds of people being put to death in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, surprisingly little data exists on who exactly is killed by the government. Two reporters …

Episode 62: Police Abuse In American Schools

February 6th, 2020


In recent years, the number of police in American schools has skyrocketed as social services have been cut. As of 2016, 1.7 million students are in …

Episode 62: Locking Up Women For Killing Their Rapists

January 30th, 2020


In 2018, Brittany Smith was assaulted and raped by a man in her Alabama home. Later that night, when the same man attacked both her and her brother, …

Appeal Podcast: Reexamining the Science of Shaken Baby Syndrome

January 23rd, 2020


Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) bas been the subject of countless news specials, TV drama plots, and shocking tabloid headlines––horrific tales of child abuse, quickly met with the firm justice of the state. But in recent …

Episode 60: Substandard Healthcare in American Prisons

January 16th, 2020


The only people in the United States the government is required by law to provide healthcare for are the incarcerated. But what constitutes a baseline standard of care is very much in doubt and many human rights …

Episode 59: The Regressive Pseudoscience of Our "War on Opioid Addiction"

December 12th, 2019


On our last episode of the year we're doing something a little different: Joining us to co-host this week is Appeal contributor Zach Siegel, who’s a …

Episode 58: The Cruel Roadblocks to Getting Innocent People Out of Prison

December 5th, 2019


Last month, 106 legal scholars signed a brief supporting St. Louis prosecutor Kim Gardner's efforts to get a new trial for Lamar Johnson, a man …

Episode 57: Imagining a Post-Incarceration World

November 21st, 2019


To those tasked with radically reimagining the U.S. legal system and moving it away from the current carceral, hyper-punitive model, the logical question arises: What do you replace it with? It’s a fair question and one …

Episode 56: States Turn To Nitrogen Gas For Executions, Despite Doctors' Concerns

November 14th, 2019


Facing legal challenges and a shortage of drugs for lethal injections, Oklahoma was the first state to announce a plan to use nitrogen to execute …

Episode 55: When Criminal Justice Reform Preserves The Status Quo

November 7th, 2019


There’s a growing acceptance of the idea that we need to overhaul our system of mass incarceration. But methods for doing so vary enormously––and …

Episode 54: When Police Officers Double as Prosecutors 

October 31st, 2019


In nine states, police officers are permitted to act as prosecutors and arraign people for misdemeanor charges. In Rhode Island, the practice is the …

Episode 53: A Lack of Basic Rights for Incarcerated Workers

October 24th, 2019


Many states pay incarcerated workers just 20 or 30 cents per hour--and some don't pay them at all. But incarcerated workers also have virtually no labor rights or civil rights when it comes to battling discrimination …

Episode 52: The Problem With Jailhouse Informants

October 10th, 2019


Jailhouse informants are a fixture of pop culture, helping TV prosecutors secure convictions in exchange for leniency or other favors. But the …

Episode 51: U.S. Prisoners on Death Row Endure Permanent Solitary Before Execution

October 3rd, 2019


In addition to being unique among Western nations in executing people, the U.S. keeps many of its death row prisoners in prolonged solitary …

Episode 50: The War on Drugs Continues In Family Court

September 26th, 2019


As cannabis use is legalized in more and more jurisdictions across the country, child protective systems aren't always keeping pace. Allegations of …

Episode 49: Chesa Boudin and the Meaning of 'Reform'

September 19th, 2019


Progressive prosecutors have swept into office across the country, winning district attorney seats in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, and beyond. But what does it mean to be a “reform prosecutor"? What is the …

Episode 48: The Rise of Registries

September 12th, 2019


Earlier this year, lawmakers in New York proposed a bill that would bar people convicted of multiple sex offenses from ever using New York City’s …

End of Season Note to Listeners

July 25th, 2019


Thanks for all your support! We'll be back in September. 

Episode 47: The Media's Misguided Fentanyl Hype

July 18th, 2019


In recent years, lawmakers and the media have dusted off the 1980’s War on Drugs script to respond to an uptick in overdoses caused by a new, potent, heroin-like substance called fentanyl. Military officials are …

Episode 46: Pleading Guilty Just to Go Home

July 11th, 2019


Approximately half a million people are currently in jail awaiting trial across the United States, the vast majority because they are unable to pay bail. A 2018 study of Philadelphia and Miami-Dade found that people …

Episode 45: Qualified Immunity, A Roadblock to Reform

June 20th, 2019


Efforts to hold police accountable for violating civil rights frequently come up against a legal roadblock known as "qualified immunity." Invented …

Episode 44: What's Changed Since The 2018 Prison Strike?

June 13th, 2019


In August and September of last year, there were prison strikes in at least 17 states marked by work stoppages and hunger strikes. But what’s happened since? How have things improved or, in some cases, been made worse …

Episode 43: American Cities' Growing Reliance on Surveillance  

June 6th, 2019


In an effort to meet public demand to reduce the size of the brick and mortar prison population, some jurisdictions are doing so but reinvesting …

Episode 42: Criminal Justice Reform Hits Roadblock in Arizona 

May 30th, 2019


Dozens of states have reformed their drug laws in recent years, but Arizona remains a stubborn outlier. In Maricopa County, for example, a recent report found that drug cases represent the "overwhelming majority" …

Episode 41: Reframing The Bronx 120 Raid

May 23rd, 2019


In April 2016, the NYPD, in concert with the FBI, ATF, DEA, and Homeland Security, descended onto the South Bronx, arresting scores of people in what was described as the largest "gang takedown" in city history. Preet …

Episode 40: Generational Harm, A Hidden Cost of Mass Incarceration

May 16th, 2019


On this podcast––and in other coverage of the criminal legal system––we tend to focus, understandably, on the people behind bars and on parole. But …

Episode 39: NYPD-SVU's Low Clearance Rate for Sexual Assault

May 2nd, 2019


Despite having ‎more than 35,000 officers and a massive budget of over $5 billion a year, the NYPD––and its Special Victims Unit––have a high rate of …

Episode 38: Privacy and Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

April 25th, 2019


Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) have exploded in popularity. In 2000, thirteen states used PDMPs; today, they exist in every state and …

Episode 37: The Baltimore Police Department's Troubled Homicide Unit

April 18th, 2019


A recent lawsuit accused the Baltimore Police Department's homicide unit of a long pattern of questionable police work. Our guest, Appeal …

Episode 36: The Long, Troubled History of Gravity Knife Prosecution

April 11th, 2019


For decades, the New York Police Department has arrested people, the vast majority people of color, for carrying so-called gravity knives, meant to …

Episode 35: The Risks of Risk Assessment

April 4th, 2019


As more and more states seek to abandon cash bail, a system widely seen as unjust and discriminatory, a question has emerged: What should replace it? …

Episode 34: Pushing for Police Accountability in Sacramento

March 14th, 2019


In March 2018, police in Sacramento, California killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed 22-year-old, in his grandparents' backyard. A year later, District …

Episode 33: The Backlash Against Expanding Voting Rights

March 7th, 2019


States throughout the U.S. have recently expanded voting rights to millions of people with felony records previously barred from participating in elections. After a brief moment of celebration, two of them, Iowa and …

Episode 32: Mayor of Jackson Faces Uphill Battle for Police Accountability

February 28th, 2019


Elected in 2017 to much fanfare from progressives, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba promised to transform Jackson, Mississippi, into the “most radical city on the planet.” But almost immediately, one of Lumumba's signature …

Episode 31: Prisoners With Disabilities Fight for Equal Rights

February 21st, 2019


In the public mind, incarcerated people are often better left in the dark––unseen and unconsidered. That's especially true when it comes to prisoners with disabilities, who suffer from both the routine cruel conditions …

Episode 30: How Police Unions Are Fighting California's New Transparency Law

February 14th, 2019


A primary demand of the Black Lives Matter movement is more transparency into police misconduct. When an officer improperly arrests, unduly harms, …

Episode 29: A Pattern of Jail Deaths in Upstate New York—and Across the Country

February 7th, 2019


About 1,000 people die in U.S. jails every year. But Erie County, New York, is an outlier, with 24 such deaths since Timothy Howard took over as sheriff in 2005. This week, we’re going to talk with Appeal contributor …

Episode 28: Debunking the ‘Fake News’ About Federal Prisoners’ Steak Dinners

January 24th, 2019


As the government shutdown drags on, a number of media outlets––from NBC News to USA Today to the Washington Post––have run stories claiming that federal prisoners are eating elaborate steak dinners while prison guards …

Episode 27: Promise and Letdown in Post-Alton Sterling Baton Rouge

January 17th, 2019


Following the Alton Sterling shooting in the summer of 2016, the national media briefly turned its attention to Baton Rouge—a city marked by a long …

Episode 26: The Power of Sheriffs

January 10th, 2019


In the past few years, criminal justice reformers have focused on city police departments and prosecutors. What might be gained from focusing on …

Episode 25: How Some Cities Are Fighting Back Against ICE

December 13th, 2018


With the swearing in of President Trump in January 2017 came an aggressive rightward shift in America’s immigration policy, specifically with regard …

Episode 24: BLM Four Years On - Racism in the Criminal Justice System

December 6th, 2018


It's been over four years since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and the issue of racism in the criminal legal system remains as stark …

Episode 23: The Pseudoscience behind Forensic Science

November 29th, 2018


We’ve watched the scene play out in countless police dramas: slick scientific experts with the latest gadgets and technology finding the Bad Guys …

Episode 22: The Dangers of Faux-Reform

November 15th, 2018


“Criminal justice reform” as a general label has become trendy in recent years and, for many prospective Presidential candidates it will be a major 2020 litmus test. But what do people mean when they use the term? What …

Episode 20: Neglect and Abuse in Our Prison Healthcare System

November 1st, 2018


Most people know that the healthcare situation in the United States is one of most precarious in the world, but what’s never talked about is the status of healthcare for America’s 2.2 million incarcerated persons––which …

Episode 19: Prison Strikes and the Frontlines of Resistance Against Mass Incarceration 

October 25th, 2018


This fall, thousands of incarcerated people in dozens of states went on strike to protest harsh and exploitative conditions in America's prisons. Prisons, and the cruel conditions they foster, are often the last thing …

Episode 18: How Activists Brought Down the Most Powerful Man in Chicago

October 11th, 2018


Two pieces of news have rocked Chicago: the announcement by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that he will not seek a third term and the conviction of a white …

Episode 17: The Cruelty of Life Sentences For Proxy Crime

October 4th, 2018


The United States is alone in the world in pursuing two modes of prosecution: giving life sentences to children under 18, and giving life sentences for murder to people who never murdered anyone. Even if one doesn’t …

Episode 16 - Police Accountability: As Elusive as Ever 

September 27th, 2018


“Police accountability” is a term that gets thrown around a lot in conversations about criminal justice reform. But how do we make sure police …

Episode 15: On the Ground in Dallas' High Stakes DA Race

September 20th, 2018


This week we're doing the first of a recurring series on how activists and organizers on the ground are trying to move the needle with regard to District Attorney races. Our first installment: Dallas County. An …

Episode 14: The Prison-to-School Pipeline

September 13th, 2018


You’ve likely heard of the school-to-prison pipeline, but what you likely haven’t heard is the prison-to-school pipeline––efforts in recent years to …

Episode 13: The Problem of 'Innocence'

September 6th, 2018


'He was a straight-A student', 'a loving husband', 'she worked 60 hours a week'––we often hear how victims of police and white supremacist violence …

Episode 12: Why Electronic Monitoring Is Not Prison Reform

August 16th, 2018


As prison reform efforts begin to have an effect on how many people end up behind bars, a reliance on electronic monitoring increasingly serves as a …

Episode 11: Big Box Retailers and Prosecutors Team Up to Crackdown on Petty Crime

August 9th, 2018


Shoplifting is traditionally seen as a petty crime unworthy of serious punishment, much less prison time. But under an increasingly popular theory of …

Episode 10: Race and Corruption in Child Protection Courts

August 2nd, 2018


State child protective courts are an under-reported element of our criminal legal system, but their impact on communities of color and the poor is …

Episode 9: The History––and Promise––of the Bail Abolition Movement

July 26th, 2018


1 in 5 people incarcerated in this country have not been convicted of any wrongdoing. Their crime? Being poor in a country that tethers pre-trial freedom to one's wealth. In this episode we discuss with journalist Bryce …

Episode 8: The Racist Zeal of 'Zero Tolerance' and Trump's Anti-Immigrant Escalation

July 19th, 2018


By now you've probably heard of the family separation crisis at the US-Mexico border. What you may not know is how exactly we got to this tipping point. On today's show we talk with Appeal writer Max Rivlin-Nadler, …

Episode 7: What Abolitionists Mean When They Talk About Abolition

July 12th, 2018


We didn't always have police and prisons as we know them today—in fact, they're fairly recent inventions. Abolitionists like William C. Anderson ask …

Episode 6: The Unique Cruelty of Sentencing Children to Life Without Parole

June 28th, 2018


Despite recent Supreme Court rulings curtailing the practice, the United States remains the only country on earth that enforces life without parole …

Episode 5: Rise of Silicon Valley-Assisted Pre-Crime

June 20th, 2018


Data corporations like Palantir are teaming up with police departments to create real time “probable offender” lists of thousands of mostly African …

Episode 4: Rikers and the Co-opting of Prison Reform to Sell More Prisons

June 14th, 2018


It’s a tension that has existed in activists and political circles since there’s been activism and politics: how to know the difference between …

Episode 3: Turning Users Into Dealers and Accidental Overdoses into Murder

June 6th, 2018


Prosectors and law enforcement agencies have been bringing murder charges against people who supply friends and family with drugs. As the opioid epidemic marches on, efforts to curb heroin and prescription drug abuse …

Episode 2: The Misplaced Sanctimony of Criminalizing Sex Work

May 30th, 2018


Stopping the trafficking of exploited persons is something everyone agrees is important. But recent efforts by the federal government to exploit this …

Episode 1: District Attorneys: The Most Powerful People You’ve Never Heard Of

May 29th, 2018


District Attorneys wield the power of entire police departments but have been historically overlooked in efforts to reform the legal system. Recently …

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